Toyota has been hailed as the most reliable car brand. However, this solid reputation of dependability does not mean that everything Toyota manufactures is praiseworthy. The Toyota Tundra, for example, is also associated with the legendary durability of the Japanese car brand. However, certain years of this model are problematic.
A little trivia: the Tundra model was supposed to be called the T150. However, this sounded like Ford’s F-150 line, which was the more popular pickup truck at that time. Ford sued Toyota, which forced the Japanese auto manufacturer to change the name to Tundra.
This top-of-the-line Toyota truck is equipped with Toyota Sense v2.5, which means it has automatic emergency braking, adaptive speed control, a lane departure alert system, and high beams that automatically light up when needed. It also features blind spot monitoring.
The Tundra had an impressive start. It received the 2000 Truck of the Year award by Motor Trends and its debut set the highest vehicle sales for Toyota. However, over time, some model years developed major issues.
Here’s a rundown of the Toyota Tundra years to avoid.
2003 to 2006 Model Year Toyota Tundra (1st Generation [XK40] Facelift)
The first-gen Toyota Tundra was built with the 3.4-liter V6 (190hp) engine. This was later updated to a 4.0-liter V6 for the 2005 model. The last iteration of the first generation Tundra received a 4.7-liter V8 engine. For the transmission, the options were five and six-speed manual and four and five-speed automatic.
The first-gen Tundra had two-wheel-drive (2WD) and four-wheel-drive (4WD) versions, namely the XK30 and XK40. The former is the 2WD (rear-wheel) variant while the latter is 4WD. The 2005 four-wheel drive version, however, was associated with some issues.
While it is a generally reliable successor to Toyota’s T100 truck, many owners of the XK40 reported rusting frame rails and radiator leaks in the automatic transmission models. The failing secondary air pump was also a problem. However, the biggest problem led to recalls in 2007 and 2022. This problem concerns a lower ball joint failure, which can cause the driver to lose control and possibly crash.
2007 to 2009 Model Year Toyota Tundra (2nd Generation [XK50])
The second generation Tundra is a major leap from its predecessor not only in terms of specs but also when it comes to appearance and safety features. Its body-on-frame design was complemented by its contemporary look, based on 2007 standards.
Just like the first-gen model, this Toyota truck used multiple engines. Starting with a 4.0-liter V6, the engine was upgraded gradually until the powerful 5.7-liter V8 engine was adopted. The last version of the second-gen Tundra was rated 381hp, capable of towing up to 10,000 lbs.
The 2007 to 2009 models of the Toyota Tundra, unfortunately, have a number of problems. Just like in the first-gen, the secondary air pump problem also emerged in some units. Also, there were complaints about the V8 engine manifesting the so-called “piston slap” or knocking pistons. This defect produces an unsettling sound whenever the engine is started after it has been exposed to cold temperatures. There are also reports of alternator and exhaust manifold problems.
However, the most significant issues are identified with the 2007 Tundra. According to Consumer Reports, a total of 14 recalls have been issued on this Toyota truck model, and most of them are tied to the increased possibility of crashing. Based on data compiled by Consumer Reports, two recalls were issued in 2021 over possible steering system malfunctions because of an oil leak. There were also crash-risk-related recalls concerning the tires, wheels, and vehicle speed control system.
2010 to 2013 Model Year Toyota Tundra (2nd Generation [XK50] Facelift)
The XK50s, released as model years 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013, are still part of the second generation. They went through some aesthetic upgrades, especially related to the grille and tail lights. The engines are still the same as the ones in the earlier second-gen models. The body style options were likewise retained.
However, something untoward happened as the Toyota trucks went through facelift changes. This has created what is arguably the worst model year for the Tundra in 2012. Many owners of this model filed complaints related to the failures of the induction pump, secondary air injection, and transmission.
Notably, these problems are not cheap to fix. The pump defect, for instance, can set off owners for more than $2,500. The secondary air injection pump issue and transmission failure even cost more at $3,000 and $5,500 respectively.
Still, these are not the worst for the 2012 Tundra model, as they did not result in a recall. The bigger problems are with the steering system and some equipment issues that could lead to accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) ordered two recalls for this specific vehicle in 2021 because of a steering system issue that can aggravate the risk of crashing.
Toyota Tundra Years to Avoid: Odds and Evens
So which Toyota Tundra model years should consumers avoid?
The answers are two odd and two even numbers, namely the model years 2005, 2007, 2008, and 2012. These years do not necessarily have the highest volume of complaints and recall. However, they are associated with the most serious concerns.
The silver lining here, however, is that these Tundra years are in between the introductory and final years of each generation. This means that improvements were implemented to make sure that the last models of each generation have been rid of major issues.
Air Injection Pump Failure and Common Problems
The air injection pump failure affected nearly a dozen models of the Tundra Toyota. The carmaker had to extend its warranty coverage for this specific issue that affected the 2012 to 2013 models.
There were also complaints about brake issues. Some Tundra truck owners say that they encountered brake jerking and shaking, which is rather dreadful for anyone regularly driving the streets or highways.
Additionally, transmission failure problems have also inconvenienced many owners. Repair costs for this are usually around a few thousand dollars.
The lower ball joint problem is another one of these significant issues. More than half a million Tundra vehicles were affected by this problem, and recalls were issued for it. There’s also the issue of the noisy exhaust manifold, characterized by ticking sounds originating from this part of the vehicle.
A Reliable Toyota Truck Lineup with Some Exceptions
Toyota Tundra trucks are generally reliable vehicles all around. They are also some of the longest-lasting Toyota trucks. They have excellent hauling ability, with the most recent model capable of towing up to 10,200 lbs of wheeled weight. They are far from perfect, though.
Complaints and recalls were filed against almost all model years, but this doesn’t mean that the Tundra is an inferior full-size truck. It still deserves recognition as one of the most reliable vehicles in the market. The few Toyota Tundra years to avoid do not represent the entirety of the Tundra range, especially since their issues have been addressed accordingly.